CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE STUMBLED INTO "THE SHALLOW ZONE." WATCH OUT FOR THE ROCKS. SOME OF THEM ARE SHARP.
If you're looking for a blog with meaningful content on the important issues of the day, you've come to the wrong place. This is the shallows, my friend. Nothing but shallowness as far as the eye can see. Let someone else make sense of things. I like it here.

About Me

My photo

I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT
Not that there's any weight to it...
IN A WORLD FILLED WITH COMPLEX POLITICAL ISSUES, SOCIAL INEQUALITY, AND FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY, I CONSIDER IT MY GIFT TO YOU, MY READER, TO OFFER THIS SHALLOW LITTLE HAVEN, WHERE NOTHING IS TOO SHALLOW, TOO INSIGNIFICANT, OR TOO RIDICULOUS TO JUSTIFY OUR ATTENTION. IN OTHER WORDS, IF IT'S NOT IMPORTANT....SO WHAT? NEITHER WAS MARILYN MONROE'S BRA SIZE. AND THAT STILL SELLS MAGAZINES, DOESN'T IT?
VIDEO OF THE MONTH

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

CREEPY MANNEQUIN WEDNESDAY PHOTO


It's Wednesday...and you know what the means, don't you? Besides it being Prince Spaghetti Day, that is. Or Hump Day. Still not sure? Okay, I'll clue you in. Wednesdays have just become this blog's official "Creepy Mannequin Photo Day." Of course, as far as I'm concerned, all mannequins are pretty damned creepy. But that's the reason I'm doing this. I'm facing my fears. Working my way from mannequins to snakes, although, just between you and me, I'd have to be extremely hard up for ideas to actually hunt down a photograph of a snake and post it here. So, for now, let's just stick with mannequins. Here it is. Good luck with the ensuing nightmares.


Skol!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

NOODLES OF DOOM




My obsession with Asian horror flicks began about six years ago when my younger son started dating a girl who was (exactly, according to her) half Greek, a quarter Black, and a quarter Japanese. More precisely, her father was Greek, and her mother was half-Black and half-Japanese, the latter having actually been raised in Japan by her adoptive parents before relocating to the States as an adult where she met her Greek husband, who had relocated to the States from the island of Cyprus as a child. Confused? I hope not. And it's not all that important anyway. The real point is, during my son's year-long relationship with said girl, the three of us watched dozens of Asian horror flicks together, sometimes two or three a weekend, immersed in what I now like to call my "Noodles of Doom" phase. It wasn't just movies, either. The three of us also spent a great deal of time learning to cook Japanese food, visiting Japanese restaurants, and watching "Magibon" videos on YouTube (if you don't know who Magibon is, you can find out here, not that you'll necessarily be any better for it). My son and his girlfriend even invested in Japanese language flashcards and made an impressive foray into learning how to speak rudimentary Japanese, which, along with the Danish speakers who were also living in our house at the time, made for quite the little in-house Tower of Babel. But that's another post. This one is all about the horror flicks.


Now, I don't know how you feel about horror flicks, but chances are, you've seen your share of them. They were making them even before the advent of the "talkies", mostly with vampires and various incarnations of Frankenstein's monster as the central horror-inducing character. Obviously, the horror genre has come a long way since the days of pasty-faced ghouls stumbling around in shadowy mansions with their arms outstretched in classic "monster pose." And as a rule, I've never really been a fan. I prefer to be frightened in a more subtle way, with the spookiness implied (as in Hitchcock's "Rebecca" or the original "The Haunting of Hill House) as opposed to it being thrown in a big gory heap into my face ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or "Saw"). But I do like scary movies, so when my son and his girlfriend first started ordering Asian horror movies on Netflix and taking over the "good" TV set every weekend in order to watch them, I was game for a viewing or two. I can't even remember the name of the first one I watched (although I'm pretty sure it was Japanese), but I know it included what I have since come to consider the four staples of a good Asian horror flick: young girls in school uniforms, a female spirit with long black hair, bizarre images on cell phone accompanied by eerie messages, and an excessive degree of cheesiness.


Yes, that's right---cheesiness. The more cheesiness the better. For some reason, the same cheesiness factor that I would never accept if I saw it in an American or European horror movie only serves to make Asian horror flicks even more appealing. It's sort of like pink flamingo lawm ornaments. Everyone knows they're kitsch (or at least they should). But if you put them on your lawn, knowing that, and to celebrate the fact, drape them in a string of white lights or put party hats on them, they transcend the kitchiness and become...well...art. Same thing with cheesy Asian horror flicks. Still not making myself clear? Okay, well, let's start with the first of the four staples: the young girls in school uniforms. While the Japanese horror flicks do it best, some version of the aforementioned characters seems to be present in nearly all Asian films of the genre. I suppose there's just something inately innocent about a schoolgirl in uniform that, when coupled with the threat of a paranormal entity out for revenge or whatever happens to be driving it in a particular movie, just makes the situation all the more compelling...even if it has become cliche. And, in this, I have to give the Japanese horror flick makers extra kudos simply because Japanese school girls have the best uniforms. I mean, come on, you don't have to have some weird fetish to appreciate those little pleated mini-skirts, white blouses with Peter Pan collars and girly neckties, and white knee-socks and loafers. All of which only make the dichotemy between the horrified school girls and their paranormal nemisis (es) even more jarring.


Which brings us to the second of the four staples: the female spirit with long black hair. I cannot emphasize enough the role that long black hair plays in Asian horror flicks. At one point during my "Noodles of Doom" period, my son, his girlfriend, and I estimated that of all the films we had sat through up until then, at least 80 percent of them had utilized long black hair as a major part of the horrifying process. Where do you think the little girl in "The Ring" got her hairstyle? From the Japanese horror flick on which the American version of "The Ring" was based, of course. But, once again, the Asian flicks do it best. It usually starts when we catch our first glimpse of the scary spirit lady who has been haunting the school/apartment building/train station or whatever, and experience that initial delicious frisson at the sight of the endless black mane hanging down over her shoulders as she moves slowly toward the....yes, you guessed it...horrified school girls in uniform. But it doesn't necessarily stop there. Sometimes, as the film progresses, the hair takes on a malicious life of its own, elongating even more until it takes on the form of black tenticles reaching out to grab the stunned victim, or, even more chillingly, snaking up out of the drain in the bathroom sink and wrapping itself around the victim's wrist, resulting in a terrifying game of supernatural tug-of-war that could go either way. That's another interesting thing about the genre. You never really know who's going to die in an Asian horror flick. The girl who, at the beginning of the film, seems to be the main protagonist doesn't always make it to the end. And even if she does, there's a good chance that she's still going to meet a gruesome demise at the hands of her supposed best friend who has somehow become possessed by the revengeful spirit, except, of course, we don't realize that until the very last frame at which point the best friend suddenly pulls out a knife just as the other girl starts to embrace her in an "Oh, Koko, we survived!" kind of way. I've seen it happen countless times, and it never fails to jump me, even though I know it's probably going to happen. But that's the beauty of it.


But on to the third and fourth staples: the cell phones and the excessive cheesiness. Cell phones get a lot of face time in Asian horror flicks, not just because, as in other countries, people are always using them, but because, for some reason, the paranormal entities who inhabit Asian horror flicks seem to prefer communicating that way. Whether it's an inexplicable text from a dead friend, or the terrifying image of a still-living person meeting their end in some horrifying way (which invaribly happens for real within minutes of the image's appearance on the phone), cell phones are an integral part of the genre. If I had a dime for every time I've watched a school girl in uniform gaping disbelievingly at the screen of her pink cell phone as she witnesses the imminent death of the person standing next to her, I could buy a hell of a lot of udon noodles. (And I would, too...I love them.) But this of course brings us back full circle to the excessive cheesiness that provides the backdrop for the possessed cells phones, the horrified girls in school uniforms, and the scary ladies with long black hair. And in a genre in which cheesiness has been elevated to an art form, I have to say, that, hands down, the absolute best example I can give you of an Asian horror flick in which it all comes together is a little gem called "Attack Girls' Swim Team Vs The Undead."


Released in 2008, directed by Koji Kawano (I don't know who Koji Kawano is, but he or she is clearly a genuis) and starring Sasa Handa as the doomed heroine, "Aki", "Attack" has everything I've already mentioned as well as a hell of a lot more. In a word, it's pretty much the Holy Grail of Asian horror flicks. I'd give you a complete rundown of the plot, but I'm not sure it would make any more sense to you than it did to me when I first watched it the night before my son and I were leaving on a trip to London four years ago. Suffice to say, it involves a school girl in uniform who is actually an assassin on the run from the people who kidnapped her and turned her into an assassin, and along with the usual plethora of scary images and cell phone use, there are "undead" teachers and students, nudity, and even a pool-side lesbian lovemaking scene. Oh...and in the end, everyone dies, of course. But the very best thing about the film is that, toward the end, as Aki is in the midst of a life and death battle with her former "mentor", she lies down on the ground, spreads her legs, and kills him with a lazer that comes out of a specially-equpped tampon she has been wearing for just that purpose. I'd like to see someone do that in an American horror film. But I won't. Neither will you. It's the kind of thing that only happens in a Japanese horror flick with an unwieldy name like "Attack Girls Swim Team Vs The Undead."


Well, there you have it. My little treatise on one of my guilty (perhaps guiltiest) pleasures. Not that calling it a "guilty pleasure" means that I'm embarrassed or ashamed of my passion for the genre. If anything, I look forward to seeing more Asian horror flicks, although it will never be quite as much fun as it was back in the crazy, hazy days of my "Noodles of Doom" phase. And once you've seen a school girl called Aki shoot a lazer out of her tampon, well, let's face it...you've pretty much reached the pinnacle of viewing pleasure.

Skol!

Friday, January 25, 2013

YOU'RE UNDER ARREST, CHARLIE BROWN



Noooooooo! Can it really be true? Peter Robbins, the former child actor who provided the husky, world-weary voice of Charlie Brown in classic 1960's Peanuts TV specials such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", was arrested last Sunday on charges of....gasp!....stalking and threatening! Yes, I know. But pick your jaw up off the floor. You'll get carpet burn. And we're just getting started on this mind-boggling tale of yet another child star turned mid-life trainwreck.


PETER ROBBINS PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO CHARGES OF STALKING AND THREATENING IN SAN DIEGO SUPERIOR COURT EARLIER THIS WEEK

Okay, so, details. Well, it seems that the 56-year-old Robbins, who lives in Oceanside, California, became upset when his girlfriend, Shawna Kern refused to pay back money he had given her for breast augmentation surgery (guess "Charlie Brown" likes them peanut-sized) after the couple broke up in December. To show his displeasure, he allegedly left Kern a series of threatening phone messages, including one in which he said, "You better hide, Shawna, I'm coming for you...and I'm going to kill you." Robbins also allegedly threatened to kill Kern's son if she didn't return his car and dog. And it didn't stop there. Robbins was additonally charged with threatening the female surgeon who performed Kern's breast enhancement as well as a police sergeant who arrested him on Jan. 13 after he failed to pay a hotel bill. The erstwhile Peanuts star was arrested on stalking and threatening charges by U.S. Customs officials as he was returning to San Diego from Mexico last Sunday. He was released on $55,000 bail after pleading not guilty (big surprise) in San Diego Superior Court earlier this week. The bail was originally set at $550,000, but Robbins' lawyer, who described him as an "eccentric person" and "a distraught man", argued for the lesser amount, telling the judge that, prior to his arrest on the current charges, Robbins had never been in trouble with the law.


ROBBINS SMILING FOR "PEANUTS" FANS IN HAPPIER TIMES

Of course, Robbins is hardly the first former child star to land in jail after indulging in criminal behavior. The list of one-time Hollywood prodigies gone wrong is a long and tragic one (please join me in a moment of silence for Alfalfa, won't you?), and I could spend more time than I have to spare trying to analyze the reasons that so many of the kids we've watched grow up on TV and in the movies seem to come to a bad end once they exit puberty. But come on....the guy who did the voice of Charlie Brown? I mean, it's bad enough when someone like Todd Bridges (he played Willis in "Diff'rent Strokes", in case you've forgotten) is arrested for allegedly murdering his drug dealer (he was later acquitted) or the kid who wowed us in "The Sixth Sense" wrecks his car after a few too many cocktails, but when Charlie Brown gets hauled before a judge for threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend...well, for those of us who grew up watching the Peanuts TV specials, that's kind of like hearing that one of your old neighborhood pals (the nice, dependable kid who fed his pet dog every night and walked his little sister to school) has just shot up the local Dairy Freeze. It's not supposed to happen. Not to mention that it alters forever the entire Peanuts universe. How are we supposed to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" next year knowing that the kid who supplied the sad sack voice of Charlie Brown grew up to be someone who threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend over a breast enhancement disagreement?


And who do we blame? The Little Red-Haired Girl for not returning his affections? Lucy for always yanking that football out from underneath him whenever he tried to kick it? Or maybe it was Snoopy's sense of entitlement that created the monster that Charlie Brown became. Or even Linus or Schroeder, both of whom were clearly much more interested in intellectualizing and philosophizing than in just being there for poor Charlie. There are even those who might argue that it was all those years of playing a cartoon character whose only adult role models were invisible people who sounded like trumpets when they talked that drove the kid over the edge and set him on the path to eventual ruination. I, personally, think that Sally might very well have been the "Yoko" in the mix, with her nasal-voiced neediness and complete disregard for her big brother's ongoing struggle with self-esteem issues. (Good grief! Did the little minx never notice how many times her overwrought sibling visited Lucy's neighborhood psychiatry booth?) Peppermint Patty and Violet may have something to answer for as well, although, off-hand, I'm not prepared to say just how they fit into the toxic equation. The only Peanuts character who seems not to have contributed to Charlie Brown's downfall is Pigpen, who was probably the only other member of the group less popular than the ironically nicknamed "Good Man" himself, even if he did seem blissfully unaware of that fact. I could go on and on positing the possibilities. But I won't. Some questions just don't come with ready made answers, Lucy's psuedo psychriatric pronouncements notwithstanding.


Bottom line, it's a sad day for Peanuts fans. And for those who never gave a damn about Peanuts or who perhaps even found Charlie Brown and his precociously pretentious little gang of over-achievers annoying, it's a sad day as well. Because, if nothing else, Peter Robbins' free-fall from grace is just one more reminder that, when it comes to childhood idols, nothing is sacred. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling (as I'm sure Linus or Schroeder would do if they were writing this post), to give your heart to a round-headed kid in a yellow sweater with a zig-zaggedy brown stripe around the middle is to have it torn to pieces.

Thanks a lot, Charlie Brown. Looks like you deserved that scraggly little Christmas tree after all. And to the rest of you...skol!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVID BOWIE...NOW PLEASE RELEASE A BETTER SONG



So, David Bowie, my favorite solo artist of all time has just released his first single in ten years...and guess what? It's horrible. Please don't think it's easy for me to say that. On the rock star worship scale, I would rate my adoration for David Bowie at about eleven. I fell in love with him back in his Ziggy Stardust days, stayed deeply infatuated through his Thin White Duke period straight on through the Berlin years, and maintained the same level of affection even in the nineties when he was mostly doing movies and laying low in New York City with his wife Iman. I love David Bowie so much that I can't even tell you which of his songs is my favorite because, at one point or another, so many of his songs have been my "favorite" that it would feel like desecration not to mention them as well. Bottom line, to me, Davis Bowie is nothing short of a music god, and the barometer by which all other rock artists must invaribly be measured. I don't even have a crush on him. (My crush meter is totally weighed down with my unconditional passion for John Taylor, the most gorgeous hunk of male flesh to ever strap on a bass...or to just stand around doing nothing, for that matter.) No...my love for David Bowie is completely rooted in my admiration and appreciation for his musical genuis. Until I heard his new single, that is.


The single, called "Where Are We Now" was released on Jan. 8, which happened to be Bowie's 66th birthday. And at 66, the man is clearly still passionate about making music. It's a well-produced recording, and, if nothing else, it's proof that his voice has held up despite the aging process. It's the song itself that's disappointing. If there's one thing that Bowie fans have come to expect from his songs, it's that they will contain...well...a musical hook. Of some kind anyway. "Where Are We Now" has nothing even resembling a hook. It just sort of starts, goes on for a bit, and then just ends. Listening to it, you have the sense that it wants to be one of his earlier songs, but isn't quite up to the challenge. You keep waiting for that familiar rush of adrendeline to kick in and carry you off the way his other songs usually do, but, then, just as you're thinking "Okay, this is where the change comes and he gets serious", the damned thing just fades away like an old man in baggy red pants scuffling off into a midwestern suburban sunset. It hurts.

I can only hope that the upcoming album, which is set to hit store shelves in March, will temper the pain. As a true Bowie fan, I am willing to bet that it will. At 66, David Bowie is far from old and still capable of great things. Maybe not another "Heroes" or "Lady Grinning Soul", but great nonetheless. For now, all I can say is...I want to believe. And I will try...at least until March, anyway.